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Ani DiFranco's Best Songs


Ani DiFranco has recorded hundreds of songs over the course of her more-than-two-decade career - love songs and silly songs, dance songs and protest songs, and even one surprisingly good rap song. Needless to say, getting to know them all can be a daunting task. Here's a look at a few handfuls of Ani DiFranco's best songs.

1. "Your Next Bold Move"

© Righteous Babe Records
It's almost hard to believe now that this song was written during the Clinton administration, considering everything that followed 9/11, the wars and endless parade of atrocities that came from the Bush administration. The lyrics—about feeling so overwhelmed you almost give up on the possibility of peace and hope—became more timely in the years after this song was released than DiFranco herself could have possibly predicted. Listening to this tune now, during the Obama administration, it seems to take on a completely different meaning. (From Reveling/Reckoning

You want to track each trickle back to its source / scream up the faucet til your face is hoarse / because you're surrounded by a world's worth of things you can't excuse

2. "Buildings and Bridges"

© Righteous Babe Records
"Buildings and Bridges" (from 1994's Out of Range) is a song about pretty much everything—a sweeping observational tune about the way things are. The main thrust of the song is that those who can't adapt and change with the world will find themselves left behind when the world changes without them.

Buildings and bridges are made to bend in the wind / to withstand the world, that's what it takes / all that steel and stone are no match for the air, my friend / what doesn't bend, breaks

3. "Trickle Down"

© Righteous Babe Records
Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Ani DiFranco has written a number of tributes to her hometown. "Trickle Down," from Up Up Up Up Up Up, is a comprehensive, earnest, poem-song about the history of the rust belt town. Set to a haunting tremolo-effected guitar strum, with DiFranco's voice coming across distant and hushed like a sad secret, it's a tremendously well-rounded ode on Buffalo's working class legacy.

The president assured us it was all gonna trickle down / like it'd be raining so much money we'd be sad to see the sun / Mr. Wilcewski's brother had some business out in Denver so they left town / everybody knows they were the lucky ones

4. "Fire Door"

© Righteous Babe Records
Even though it was never quite radio friendly, "Fire Door" could be considered one of Ani DiFranco's first hit songs from her debut self-titled disc. It's an unrequited tune about self-preservation in the face of a relationship gone awry.

I make such a good statistic someone should study me now / somebody's gotta be interested in how I feel / just 'cause I'm here and I'm real

5. "To the Teeth"

© Righteous Babe Records
Ani DiFranco has long been an advocate of gun control, and this is undeniably her finest song on the matter. Inspired by a rash of school violence and the questions it raised in the media about who's at fault when children lash out, this title track to her album To the Teeth spares no explanation and pulls no punches. It's one of the boldest topical songs of her entire career.

Open fire on Hollywood / open fire on MTV / open fire on NBC and CBS and ABC / open fire on the NRA and all the lies they've told us along the way / open fire on each weapons manufacturer while he's giving head to some Republican senator

6. "Subdivision"

© Righteous Babe Records
"Subdivision" (from Reveling/Reckoning) is, in part, another song about DiFranco's hometown of Buffalo, New York. But, it's also an editorial on institutionalized racism and the perils of gentrification. She likens the ways Buffalo has dealt with these issues to the way they have affected the rest of the nation, asking:

What will it take for my country to rise / first we admit our mistakes, then we open our eyes / or nature succumbs to one last dumb decision / and America the Beautiful is just one big subdivision

7. "God's Country"

© Righteous Babe Records
With all the hours (or rather, years) Ani DiFranco has clocked on the road, it's kind of surprising she doesn't have far more road trip songs. "God's Country," from her 1993 release Puddle Dive, is the one with the most staying power and, even though it's more than 10 years old, she's been known to pull this one out at shows over the past few years.

I guess I came out here to see some stuff for myself / why leave the telling up to everybody else? / This may be God's country, but this is my country too

8. "Animal"

© Righteous Babe Records
Through the years, Ani DiFranco has gotten much better at tackling anthemic topics in anthemic songs. "Animal," from her 2004 release Educated Guess, is quite possibly her best all-purpose anthem. Though it keeps a tight focus on environmental issues, the song touches on patriotism, religion, empiricism, and the urgent need for empathy and community in an ever-changing world.

Ask any ecosystem / harm here is harm there, and there, and there / aggression begets aggression, it's a very simple lesson / that long preceded any king of heaven

9. "Hello Birmingham"

© Righteous Babe Records
This song from her 1999 release To the Teeth tells the story of the murdering of an OBGYN in Ani DiFranco's hometown of Buffalo, likening the event to a rash of abortion clinic bombings in Birmingham, Ala. It's a compelling, incredibly sad tale about the clash between the "Right to Life" movement and the pro-choice movement.

I was once escorted through the doors of a clinic by a man in a bullet-proof vest / and no bombs went off that day / so I am still here to say Birmingham, I'm wisihng you all my best / on this election day

10. "32 Flavors"

© Righteous Babe Records
This has long been one of Ani DiFranco's most popular songs among her fans. From her 1995 release Not a Pretty Girl, this song tackles the tough road to self-empowerment, finding honesty, strength, and purpose in one's own life story. It's an excellent song about surmounting marginalization and prejudice and defying the standards of beauty. The melody is smooth and easy, and there's an excellent sputtering, syncopated hand drum solo at the end.

Squint your eyes and look closer / I'm not between you and your ambition

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